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  1. #1
    CityGuard's Avatar
    CityGuard is offline Former GPWA Program Manager
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    Default Portal Webmaster Interview Series: Sharon Liss - SharBear613

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    Sheís afraid of heights, but she keeps Maximum Poker League flying high!

    Real name: Sharon Liss
    City currently residing in: Palm Harbor, Florida, USA
    Age: 40
    Favorite food: All Seafood (except clams)
    One book everyone must read: The Hero Within by Carol S. Pearson
    Your gaming sites: www.maximumpokerleague.com

    OK, let's start with the two questions everyone wants to know about...What is the back story behind your screen name and your avatar?
    My sister and I used to love the ďCare BearsĒ (the show with the cute little pastel-colored bears) when we were kids. My sister started calling me SharBear (Shar was short for Sharon). Come to find out there actually was a ShareBear! It has stuck with me ever since. She still calls me that today!

    As far as the avatar, I have a set of í50s pin-up women on ace cards. I use them as my avatar for all forums I belong to.

    How did you become interested in online poker? What's your favorite game? What's the most you've ever won playing online?
    We used to play card games growing up, but it was mostly Michigan Rummy for pennies. As an adult I started playing blackjack. About three years ago my dad told me about poker that you can play online for real money. He introduced me to poker forums, so I absorbed everything I could about different types of card games before playing for money. Once I started playing I was hooked.

    My favorite game at the moment is Omaha, either Hi or Hi/Lo. Iím not a huge fan of limit, but I love a great game of H.O.R.S.E. No-Limit Holdíem will always remain one of my favorites because it was the first game I learned to play online.

    The most I ever won to date would be a seat into the 2006 WSOP Ladies Event on King Solomon Poker. I won the entry plus travel expenses. It started with a $3 satellite. Also, in 2006 I hit a royal flush on 32Red Casino for $4,000.

    Why did you transition from playing poker online to being a poker affiliate? What about the online gambling industry fundamentally intrigued you?
    I belonged to a few poker forums. In 2006 I joined the Maximum Poker League (MPL) forum. It was the first forum where I really felt at home. I think it was because the owner was from Michigan and so was I. Right from the get-go they made you feel like a family. Well, one day MPL was looking for a moderator, so I volunteered. As time went by the owner gave me more and more responsibilities setting up games and running different aspects of the forum. The owner went through some medical issues and had to step back from the forum, so I ran the ship in his absence. Eventually he let me start posting affiliate links of my own. I approached him in October last year about moving from a free domain to a paid domain for more exposure and he agreed. I worked with a friend to get the forum set up. We busted a hump getting the site registered, setting up the forum, setting up link exchanges, etc. After it was all set up and running, Bill (the owner) offered me part ownership in the forum. I finally received my first affiliate payment in February of this year! It might have been small, but it was like getting a pat on the back for all the hard work. It was very exciting. Then that payment doubled in March and then doubled again in April. I havenít made a fortune, but I have made enough to be able to give back to our members, which is what I wanted all along.

    How did you settle on making a forum the central part of your business model? How much time does it take to administer the forums?
    Doing something online was pretty much a given. I love computers and I am currently working on a Bachelorís degree in Information Systems (IS). I am finally learning all the behind-the-scenes technical jargon that it takes to run a forum. These last few months I have earned a deep respect for our tech guy, Fonzi! He makes it look so easy, but now I am starting to see that itís not.

    Administering a forum is a part-time job if you want to do it right. I run one forum and it is time consuming. I canít imagine running several. The most difficult part would be getting people to download the new poker sites and actually deposit. With all the legal issues, problems with deposit options, and poker sites shutting down and taking playersí money, it has been a constant struggle.

    The easiest part of managing the forum is getting members to participate in games. We have a network of forums that all support each other and play each otherís games in order to increase the numbers. It has been easy to approach these forums about supporting each otherís games. It works out great for everyone in the long run.

    We have a nice group of members who visit the forum daily and make posts that others eagerly respond to. We have a great number of members who visit often and do their part to post. Without the great members, we wouldnít be a successful forum. We are still growing, but the members are making it happen by word of mouth.

    We currently have a handful of moderators and they all do it voluntarily. They know we are not making big bucks yet, so they do it to help us out. One day I hope to be able to reward them for all their help. Alby is responsible for posting our games on other forums and posting other forumsí games on our calendar. TJ helps with posting screenshots and getting the conversation started daily on our shout-out box. Grump and Potsplasher are what we would call the bodyguards of the forum. They keep everything in line and make sure the drama stays outside the forum.

    You are the co-owner of Maximum Poker League. Who is your co-owner? And how do the two of you divide the site's responsibilities?
    My co-owner is Bill Maxwell (aka Billmax07). He has actually been running the forum for quite a few years. I just encouraged him to take it a step further. We have just meshed perfectly together as far as the forum goes. He is the most laid-back guy I know. He goes with the flow. If I have a crazy idea he lets me run with it and see how it goes. I couldnít ask for a greater guy to work with.

    We divide the poker affiliate links in half. We each deal with our affiliate managers to get leagues and games set up.

    Recently Bill has let me venture into the casino scene. Itís new to both of us but we are willing to work together to give it a try and see how it goes.

    Do the private tournaments you offer for members generally convert well? Or do you get most of your players through other methods?
    It is no surprise that when we run freerolls on different sites our membership automatically grows. Of those new members we have a small percentage that actually become active members. A lot of our members come to us from other forums that we are friends with or are members of. I think we have actually started pulling members due to good ranking on search engines like Google and Yahoo. We also have some members who have been spreading the word, which has been helpful.

    You've mentioned on the forums that in addition to running your site, you are a single mom who is also attending college. How do you find time for it all? Which college are you going to? What are you studying? And what time management tips can you offer your fellow GPWA members?
    Once you are a mother, you automatically kick into multi-task mode (lol). Somehow you just find the time to do everything.

    I am currently attending Eckerd College, studying Information Systems with a Management track. Iím about halfway done. Iím scheduled to graduate in May 2010.

    It is very important to make time for your family. I have a wonderful 14-year-old daughter! We like to take time together to go out to dinner and movies on a regular basis. I have to take advantage of that while I can, because soon enough it will not be cool to be seen with me. Hehe.

    As far as time-management tips, I think it is important to realize you canít do everything in one day! Whether you like it or not there are only 24 hours in a day and you do need at least a few of those hours for some sleep. Donít kill yourself trying to get it all done. Donít be afraid to reach out and ask for help. You will be surprised how many people are willing to help. Also, always realize there are no dumb questions, so donít be afraid to ask.

    What characteristics of online poker rooms do you find are most important for players?
    I think the most important characteristic would be the availability to withdraw funds with minimal problems. When a site requires you to sign your name in blood and give up your first child, then it is not the site for us to promote. Seriously though, there are sites that make it so easy to deposit and yet so hard to withdraw.

    Is marketing poker to women different than marketing it to men? And if so, how?
    I donít believe it is any harder to market poker to women. In the last couple of years the percentage of women you see at the tables has increased dramatically. There are more women at the tables than players probably realize. There are more forums that are owned and run by women, which just shows that it is not only a manís game anymore. Women are no longer intimidated by men at the tables and do not think twice about jumping into a game and taking a man for all his chips. Like I say, ďChicks with chips, a deadly combination.Ē

    In an ideal world, how would you divide the efforts you put into your site? What percentage would go to marketing, updating content, managing your books and other tasks (please list the tasks, include a % and an explanation, please)?
    50% Marketing
    30% Updating Contents
    20% Managing Accounts

    For us the main focus right now is marketing. We are still a new forum so we need to concentrate on increasing membership. That is our biggest challenge right now. We are always looking for ways to draw in membership and new downloaders. And when you do pull in those members it is important that your content is updated or else the members become bored and do not visit as frequently. Then managing your accounts is the final area of concentration. When you start making funds you have to be aware of how much you have in order to put it to use to make your site even bigger and better.

    How long did it take for you to start earning money?
    I started posting affiliate links as a moderator around February last year. It wasnít until February of this year that I got my first affiliate payment.

    What's surprised you the most about the industry?
    The most surprising part of the industry is how much there is to learn! It is more than just posting a banner and hoping that people download and deposit. There is so much more to be learned.

    What's surprised you the most about players?
    If you build it, they will come! If you post a game, they will play. It amazes me that players can play so many games from different forums at the same time. I have learned I can play three games at a time without a problem, but there are some players who can play five or six games and still manage to chat at the tables. That amazes me.

    What advice would you offer someone who has just started in the industry?
    When you start out you have to realize that you will not make money right off the bat. It takes time, patience, and a lot of work. What you are willing to put into it is what you will end up getting out of it. Do your homework and join great forums like GPWA that you can learn from! Know that there are people out there who are willing to help by giving advice, suggestions, and ideas. Absorb, read, learn, and be willing to take criticism with an open mind.

    If you had to pick 5 keys to success as an affiliate, what would they be and why?
    1) Form a friendly relationship with your affiliate program representatives and managers.
    2) Appreciate your members! Without them you are nothing!
    3) Be willing to ask for help when you need it, whether it is from a fellow forum owner or an affiliate program representative.
    4) Register your forum (free forums do not get the same level of exposure).
    5) Check out and use a poker site or casino before your start promoting it.

    What traits do you look for in an affiliate manager? How about in an affiliate program?
    I look for quick response time to e-mails and great attitudes. When it takes an affiliate manager a week to write back, then we have a problem. A friendly affiliate manager can make the whole experience so great, but it does work both ways. I think it is great when affiliate managers are willing to give out their usernames for instant messaging!

    I like to look for affiliate programs that have terms and conditions that are easy to understand and do not make it impossible to understand what you just read.

    What prompted you to join the GPWA? And how has it helped you so far?
    I saw the GPWA seal on a friendís site and asked him about it. I asked him what it was all about it and he referred me to GPWA. I joined the forum and starting reading all the information. I realized how much they had to offer a newbie like me. The fact that webmasters and affiliate managers can come together to help one another is just fantastic. There is so much advice, information, and ideas from members of both sides. It had so much to offer that I joined as a member and then applied for the seal. We got the seal this year and proudly display it on the forum. I also get the GPWA Times and love the articles, affiliate interviews, and all the information I get out of it. I recently got my cool GPWA t-shirt and eagerly awaiting the new iGaming directory.

    If you could change one thing about the online gaming industry, what would it be, and why?
    That is almost too obvious as a U.S. citizen! Make it legal! Get rid of the UIGEA, regulate online gambling, and give us our god-given freedom back.

    What's your favorite vacation spot? And why?
    Key West, Florida! Itís not far, but it is like a paradise! Has everything you need on vacation Ė fun, sun, and water!

    What is your favorite movie? And why?
    Wow, that is a tough one. Iím a big movie buff so it is hard to pick just one. If I had to pick a favorite I would have to say ďShawshank Redemption.Ē The movie is a true testament to the human spirit!

    If you could have one "super power," what would it be? And why?
    I would have to say the power to fly. I hate heights but to have the freedom to soar over mountains, oceans, and any scenery I want would just be exhilarating.

    Assuming you could pick anyone in the world (alive or dead), who would be sitting at your dream poker table? And why?
    I have a fascination for James Dean, so it would be a dream to be sitting at a poker table with him. He could bluff me out of a pot anytime!
    And finally, what are three things that nobody knows about you?
    1) I love the paranormal (but I donít see dead people).
    2) Iím afraid of heights.
    3) I collect geckos (even have a tattoo to prove it).
    I have left the industry and earned a law degree at Indiana University Bloomington, Maurer School of Law. Here are ways to stay in touch with me:
    > Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/StevenCorfman
    > LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/stevencorfman
    > Skype: StevenCorfman
    > Phone: +1 617 785 9324

    Inquiries intended for an administrator or staff member can be directed to Anthony Telesca through the forum (username Anthony) or to the general contact address manager AT gpwa DOT org.

  2. #2
    masontech's Avatar
    masontech is offline Private Member
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  3. #3
    Chips's Avatar
    Chips is offline Private Member
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    Great interview Sharon! Thanks for sharing with us!
    --
    "People who are unable to motivate themselves must be content with mediocrity." ~Andrew Carnegie~

  4. #4
    stemat is offline Former Private Member
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    Very nice interview sharon.
    Thanks for sharing!

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